A politician's progress

It's been a tough few weeks for Tony Blair, a prime minister caught in the Slough of Despond. How should he proceed? Here is John Nicholson's advice, with apologies to John Bunyan

Share

Dismal stories. They plague me. But they rebound on the tellers. I'm valiant. I won't sink in a quicksand of panic and gloom.

Dismal stories. They plague me. But they rebound on the tellers. I'm valiant. I won't sink in a quicksand of panic and gloom.

It is another story in those dreams. I'm alone. Wandering without any sense of where I am, where I'm going or who I am. Deserted derelict places. Is it England or some abstraction? It is not the New Jerusalem we are building.

While I wander around, getting nowhere, at least I spend my time profitably, revising my list of suspects. I am not a novice. You rearrange their faces and give them all an abstract name. Mr Little Faith from the town of Sincere who was mugged by Faintheart, Mistrust and Guilt. Guess who?

The other night was worse. I was held by a giant despair, sitting in the dungeons of the Castle of Doubt. The view of my promised land was blocked by the Range of Difficulties.

I just have this nagging sense of nameless dread. Who is Mr Unfaithful? Or Ms Unfaithful? Someone is trying to stab me in the back, but who? Of course I know the bald one is taking advantage of the whispers. I would, too, but who is behind it? The father of lies?

I tried to talk to Cherie but she just told me "Have a nice glass of Château Lafite. Go to bed. You'll be better in the morning." Who can blame her? All that wailing and gnashing of baby teeth.

My family means everything to me. But I'm just grateful there is no automatic right of inheritance, like monarchy. I'm professing my faith before my mentor while Euan is lying in a puddle of disgrace. Forgive them? Who wouldn't? My wise one, Professor Kung, said he was looking at "the old young me"! Resolved, I must be strong enough to manage on my own. But I woke up feeling worse.

What a choice. My days are filled with hell at home and hell at work. The nights are almost preferable.

I hear voices tempting me to take the easy way out. Old Believers on the Old Path, Formalist and Hypocrisy. What quicker way to outer darkness? Who can I turn to? In this business you can't trust anybody, least of all yourself.

Advice? I am surrounded by it. Who can tell you which to choose? What would Mrs T have done? Who told her what was best? All the focus groups don't bring focus, just more choices.

Why can't I stop thinking there is somebody else here, watching me? In all this emptiness, waste and muddle all I am certain of is somebody must be responsible. That means there is somebody else and they are plotting.

Why pretend those leaky stories are forgeries? I don't have confidence in us either. They were put out by our people. There are so many agencies working for us now I've lost track. It's easier to take time off and run the country. That's a relief from the hard work of intriguing. Did Mrs T suffer from plots? I suppose it goes with the job, so grumbling won't solve anything.

Could it be Mr Envy? Mr High Mind? They are easy to outflank. They won't get over the first hurdle. They really believe power is abstract. Amateurs. They don't realise the momentum of office. If you have the post you have the chance. So simple. I don't have to worry, they will destroy themselves. Mr Pliable has even less chance than Mr Worldly Wiseman. How nice to be able to gaze out across the river when you need a breather. I'm stuck here dreaming of Tuscany.

Remember Mr Pure? He looked so neat, all in white. A couple continually threw dirt at him. Guess who they were, Mr Prejudice and Madam Ill-Will. How long would any of them last in this desolate place I inhabit every night when I close my eyes? All their clichéd swindles evaporate in the glare of the dream. They have no more strength than the one who dare not speak his name. The one from the town of Glibness who believes he can talk his way out of anything. He even pretends he is somebody else: "That wasn't me. Somebody said it was me out of spite. I don't complain though. That would be petty."

I learned a lot from him, but there is more to it than that. He really is ignorant if he expects to do it on his own, without allies.

What do they want of me? I provide a life without stress, but they want change. We went through that once. Too much would frighten them.

Would they really like fire and brimstone? Abolition of privilege? A return to the real England which stirred the world? Didn't it convince me to join the faithful when they were scorned?

After I woke up I did some heart searching. Was I wrong then or wrong today? Where had the true old young me gone, my first avowed intention? How had I strayed from my true way to false paths? It was the courage of my convictions which had brought me this far, not the tempters. If I followed the light I would find the next step.

I could see a fire burning. A man was throwing water to extinguish it. But a mysterious hand was pouring oil on the fire. I understood. The water came from Satan to extinguish Faith, God pours oil to save the flames.

John Nicholson is a historian and founder of the 'Bunyan Studies Journal'.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Nick Clegg (R) Liberal Democrat Leader and former leader Charles Kennedy MP, joined the general election campaign trail on April 8, 2010  

Charles Kennedy: The only mainstream political leader who spoke sense

Tim Farron
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific